This morning I baulked at the door of an AA meeting.
As I hurried home through the early dawn light I thought to myself “If I can baulk at the door with a few weeks short of twenty-five years of sobriety under my belt, how must it be for the newcomer? Or the returning-from-a-slip-comer?” And much as I hesitate to publicly declare my lack of courage this morning, perhaps it will be important for someone out there to read.
Can I proceed without justification for my action? Probably not, so bear with me. First of all I was late. Not seriously late, just a few minutes late. But (a) I hate being late under any circumstances and (b) it was such a small meeting that my lateness would have been dramatic – as in, door opens, everyone looks, I’m bound to mumble some apology for being late rather than being clear and confident in my delivery, then everyone eventually settles back to what was happening when I rudely interrupted them. Ok, I’m projecting, but then that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? And why was I late? Some part of me was still unsure about going in the first place, and I focused on boiling the kettle, making coffee, wolfing toast, not to mention putting on a necklace and earrings before leaving. So of course I was late. Then I couldn’t find the right entrance to the building and when I did the room I thought the meeting was in was completely empty. I found the right room. But by then I was seriously late, well, all of four or maybe five minutes from the 7:30 am start time.
The ultimate irony was that leaving the building I saw someone else arrive, coffee in hand, rushing towards the very room I had just walked away from. I wondered what he was thinking. “Some poor woman who couldn’t find the courage”? Closer to the truth: “some woman who didn’t remember the value of self-compassion in the moment”.
I have attended many such meetings over the last twenty-five years. The first was particularly memorable, others as well, many simply fade into a homogenised mass of readings from the book, people sharing, emotions and curiousity. Some speakers stand out – some famous in twelve-step circles, others the average Joe or Joanne for their wisdom or insight in the face of suffering as they scrape their way into sobriety. Conventions on several continents have been particularly memorable, perhaps for their intensity and sense of the pilgrimage required.
If I baulked this morning, knowing all that I know, having experienced all that I have over the years, what can I offer someone who would really benefit from getting his or her butt to a meeting?
- “Keep coming back” is one of the mantras you’ll hear endlessly – it means just that, attending meetings routinely to remember what’s important
- Twelve-steppers are a forgiving bunch – better late to a meeting than not be there at all
- They’re also a welcoming bunch – what’s happening to you has probably happened to them and they understand
- The sober community you find at meetings provide support, encouragement and motivation
- Better late and benefit from all of the above than walk away and take a drink (which, by the way, I’m happy to report wasn’t remotely appealing)